Let’s face it: Buying a new house is expensive these days. And remodeling your existing one? That’s costly and time-consuming.
Fortunately, a full revamp isn’t your only option if a kitchen facelift is on your agenda. There are actually many ways to refresh your space – and specifically, your cabinets – without investing a ton of time or resources into the task.
Are you looking to give your kitchen cabinets a new look without breaking the bank? Try one of these six simple, yet impactful strategies.
1. Reface your cabinets.
Refacing your cabinets essentially gives them an entirely new look and feel without having to tear them out and replace them.
With this strategy, you remove the existing drawers and cabinet doors, add a new paint, stain, veneer or laminate to the cabinet boxes (there are even peel-and-stick options available), and then install new drawers and doors to match.
“Cabinet boxes experience far less wear and tear than the doors, so it is often a waste to replace them along with the doors,” says Teri Simone, head of design and marketing for Nieu Cabinet Doors. “It’s actually a more sustainable and cost-effective solution to reface the cabinet boxes and drawers with new doors and give the existing boxes a fresh coat of paint to make everything match. New doors can be custom ordered in whatever style and color suits your design vision, and the project can be completed within a weekend. Refacing can make your kitchen look completely refurbished without the cost and inconvenience of a total renovation.”
2. Give them a new coat of paint.
If you want an even easier way to refresh your cabinets, a new coat of paint will work. You’ll still need to remove the doors and drawers to make sure no spots are missed, but aside from this, all it takes is some sanding, painting and a few hours of work, and your cabinets have a whole new look.
“Paint is always a great option for a dramatic change to your existing cabinets,” says Rachel Robarge, head of design at June Homes. “Once you remove the doors, all surfaces that will be painted need to be sanded thoroughly so that the paint sticks well. Typically, you want to use an acrylic paint that has a semigloss or gloss finish. If you are able to use one, a paint sprayer will give you a seamless look with no streaks.”
When you remove your doors and drawers, take off any handles, knobs or other hardware, too – and make sure to keep good track of them.
“A great tip for staying organized is to label each door so you know which cabinet box it matches, and store the hinges and hardware in labeled Ziploc bags,” Simone says. “This will make it far easier to reinstall everything in the right place once the paint is dry.”
3. Restain them.
If you have wood cabinets, giving them a new stain can offer a similar facelift. Even better? As long as you’re going at least a shade darker, you don’t even need to fully sand the cabinets.
“You don’t have to strip the finish to apply a new stain color,” says Jay Cork, a longtime remodeler and project editor at Family Handyman. “You just lightly scuff the old finish with some steel wool, clean them thoroughly and apply the stain on top.”
If you want to maintain a more natural wood look, Cork recommends a gel stain.
“Gel stains contain a small amount of polyurethane which helps the stain coat stick to the existing finish,” Cork says. “Add a top coat with a gel polyurethane, and your kitchen cabinets will have a whole new lease on life.”
4. Add new hardware.
An even simpler way to update cabinets is to replace old hardware – drawer pulls, knobs, etc. – with new ones. If your cabinetry is currently without these fixtures, adding them can have even more of an impact.
“Switching out the hardware can quickly take an outdated look to something super modern easily,” says Stephanie Schroeder, founder of interior design firm Alchemy Studio. “Picking hardware in another color or shape can make the entire mood change for a minimal investment.”
When choosing your hardware, Simone recommends getting a few samples and bringing them home to test out first. You can play with different finishes, colors, sizes and, most importantly, placement before settling on which ones to buy.
“Selecting cabinet hardware that suits your functionality needs is important,” Simone says. “For example, knobs on cabinet drawers are harder to open than a bar pull, and cup pulls, although stylish, can be hard to use depending on their shape or size. If you tend to rush around your kitchen and need to open things quickly, orienting your hand correctly to open a cup pull might be a frustration. Even cabinet knobs can be too big or too small to be practical when it’s mealtime.”
5. Revamp the interior.
If you’re a big home cook, the interior of your cabinets is just as important as their outer look.
Fortunately, there are tons of quick and easy ways to better organize your cabinets for more efficient use.
“Catering your kitchen to your needs is so important if you’re a cook,” Robarge says. “Adding racks for lids and sheet pans will help save space. Dividers for your drawers will keep your utensils easy to find and grab as you go.”
You can also add handy pull-out systems to your cabinets – like pull-out spice racks, baking sheet organizers and more.
“A waste pull-out can be a great storage tool that not only is easy to use while cooking but helps you in your eco-conscious endeavors too by having a simple system for correct waste sorting,” Simone says. “These are typically a bin system attached to a cabinet door that pulls out for full access to your garbage, recycling or compost, so you don’t need to go digging around under the kitchen sink.”
6. Swap them out for drawers.
Another option is to switch your open cabinets – or at least some of them – to drawers, which designers say can be a real game-changer, organization-wise.
As Simone puts it, “Who wants to dig around for pots and pans on shelves?”
“Drawers tend to offer easier organization,” Simone says. “Not only do they help you organize your space better, but they are also beneficial to the resale of your home and offer more accessibility for people with limited mobility or those who are aging in their home.”
Cork suggests installing drawers on all lower cabinets.
“You will be amazed at the increase of usable, accessible space,” he says. “And the best part is you’ll never have to get down on your knees to reach into the back of an open cabinet ever again.”